- C, DH, LF, OF, RF, 3B, 1B, P
- October 13, 1949
- 190 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 9-23-1969 with MIN
- Allstar Selections:
- 1983 BR, 1983 WsMVP
Hard-nosed Rick Dempsey caught more games than any other player in Baltimore Orioles history. A scrappy receiver who handled the pitching staff well, Dempsey was never adept at the plate, but he did deliver some clutch hits for the Orioles over the years. He was named the Most Valuable Player of the 1983 World Series, when he hit .385 and slugged a homer in the clinching Game Five victory. His trade to the O's from the Yankees in a huge 10-player swap on June 15, 1976, was the break he needed to get him playing time in the big leagues. He spent 24 seasons in the majors, winning two world series rings, the first with Baltimore in '83, and the other as a backup catcher for Tommy Lasorda's Dodgers in 1988. He was famous for his enjoyable performances during rain delays, including a Babe Ruth impression and his imitation of teammate Jim Palmer.
Major League career
Dempsey was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 15th round of the 1967 Major League Baseball Draft out of Crespi Carmelite High School. After two seasons in the minor leagues, he made his major league debut late in the 1969 Minnesota Twins season for the pennant-winning Twins managed by Billy Martin, however he didn't qualify for the post-season roster. Dempsey spent a few more seasons shuttling between the Twins and their minor league teams, before being traded to the New York Yankees in October 1972. During his tenure with the Yankees, he served as a reserve catcher to Thurman Munson, and received tutoring from Yankees coach and former catching standout, Jim Hegan. After three and a half seasons with the Yankees, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles in June 1976 , where manager Earl Weaver made him the Orioles' starting catcher.
For the next ten and a half seasons, Dempsey would remain as the Orioles' starting catcher. Dempsey led AL catchers in fielding in 1981 and 1983 and in assists in 1979. He sacrificed batting average for added power in his last years at Baltimore (1984-86). Expected to stabilize a young Cleveland club, Dempsey suffered on both offense and defense. His 1987 season was curtailed by a broken left thumb suffered in a home plate collision with Bo Jackson. Dempsey rebounded in a reserve role with the 1988 World Champion Dodgers. Two years later he achieved the rare distinction of catching a game in four different decades.
In 1987, Dempsey became a free agent and signed a contract to play for the Cleveland Indians. After only one season with the Indians, he became a free agent once again and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he would be a member of another World Series-winning team in 1988, this time as a back up catcher to Mike Scioscia. While playing for the Dodgers in 1990 , he became involved in a brawl with Phillies' center fielder Lenny Dykstra, who took exception to Dempsey's fraternization with the home plate umpire. After three seasons with the Dodgers, he played one season with the Milwaukee Brewers, before returning to the Baltimore Orioles for his final season in 1992 Baltimore Orioles.
Dempsey, whose father was a Vaudeville actor and whose mother was a former Broadway star, was known to be a bit of a ham himself. During a 1977 rain delay at Fenway Park he entertained players and fans alike by performing a baseball pantomime routine with towels stuffed in his shirt to evoke Babe Ruth's well-known belly. He ended the routine by belly-flopping across the rain-soaked tarp at home plate and then leading the crowd in a rendition of "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head." Dempsey reprised the routine at various times in later years, including once in a September 1982 game at Milwaukee when he wore a Robin Yount jersey and mimicked hitting a home run before circling the bases to the delight of the crowd
On August 23, 1989, Rick Dempsey hit a solo homer in the 22nd inning off former teammate Dennis Martinez to win a 1-0 game for the Dodgers over the Expos. It's the latest inning in which a solo homer was hit to win a 1-0 game.
According to Brooks Robinson: "His attitude and hustle are a great plus. He is truly a hard-nose player and has grown in stature as far as handling pitchers and calling a game. For him to improve at the plate he is going to have to make up his mind to go to right field."
"Is excellent at blocking pitches in the dirt and fielding chops and bunts. Outstanding accuracy with his throws on attempted steals. He might have the best arm in the league." — from the 1984 Scouting Report
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